How To Support a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Asexual Friend
How to support your friends regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
Sexuality 29th Dec, 2020
People who have a different sexuality face many challenges. Although discrimination against people who are LGBTQIA+ is illegal in many countries it still happens on a regular basis. It can be a real help when a friend, or friends, make the effort to understand and show support in the face of discrimination. It is also important to question and object to prejudiced attitudes whenever you can, as this helps end the normalisation of intolerant behaviour.
The best start is to educate yourself, it is possible that you have seen the acronym LGBTQIA+ and do not know what it stands for. It means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual and/or Ally. Talk to your friend, find out what they identify as and what that means to them. It also helps to discuss what your friends challenges are. If they are transgender, they may struggle to go to the toilet in public, as they do not want to use the men’s or woman’s bathroom. Make sure you know where the disabled toilet is, as this is often the best option, in fact, in places they are now being re-labelled as communal toilets. Another issue may be low self esteem, as some gay and lesbian communities place an even bigger emphasis on the perfect body than in the mainstream world. Not all problems have solutions, however, a sympathetic ear can really make a difference.
Another area to explore is the vocabulary people use around you. Homophobia and other forms of discrimination are still part of common abusive language, for example, some people describe something bad as gay. You may also find a guy who is flamboyant described as not a ‘real man’, or a woman with short hair in dungarees ‘must be a lesbian’. If someone does this around you, gently challenge them. You do not want to provoke a defensive reaction, just ask if the person has ever noticed that the word gay, when used to mean a bad thing, was originally meant as an insult to the gay community. You could even mention that you never noticed this until it was pointed out to you. Be calm, not confrontational and see if you can get that person to make a small change. It is these minor shifts in society’s language that can make a real difference in the long term.
In addition, educate yourself on the issues faced by LGBTQIA+ people that are not generally a problem when you are straight. For example, many people in same sex relationships are not comfortable with public displays of affection. The general public may stare, comment, wolf whistle, or even become abusive. Another issue could be group holiday destinations, if you are planning a trip away, your friend/s may not feel safe in a country where their rights are suppressed. Find out what your friend/s preferences are and support them.
Overall, once you start to explore the issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community, you will become more aware of discrimination and areas where you can voice your support. You will then be in a better position to sympathise with your friend/s challenges, listen to their problems and offer educated support. You may even find this improves your friendship, adding richness to your life, which is always something to celebrate and welcome.